The King may be dead, but his name can live forever

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The Independent Online
The right of a British citizen to name his son, his dog or his goldfish "Elvis" was enshrined in a High Court judgment yesterday when an East End fan of the late singer won a historic victory over the powerful Presley estate. Sid Shaw, proprietor of Elvisly Yours, in Shoreditch High Street, was last night wiggling his pelvis in celebration of a judge's decision to allow him to use the Elvis name to sell memorabilia.

Mr Shaw had taken on the giant Elvis Presley Enterprises of America (EPE) - headed by Priscilla Presley - to appeal against a decision by the Trades Marks Registry to allow only EPE to use the words Elvis, Elvis Presley or the signature of the dead singer.

Mr Justice Laddie could not agree with the registry."Even if Elvis Presley was still alive," he speculated, "he would not be entitled to stop a fan from naming his son, his dog or goldfish, his car or his house 'Elvis' or 'Elvis Presley', simply by reason of the fact that it was the name given to him at birth."

Mr Shaw, who set up his shop in 1979, suggested after the hearing that "the King" had been on his side. "Elvis was up there somewhere smiling today," he said.

The bitter wrangle began when some of Mr Shaw's range of 400 Elvis products found their way from east London to the gates of Graceland, Elvis's home in Memphis, Tennessee, where they were being sold to tourists.

EPE, which is based at Graceland and, through Priscilla, is the legal inheritor of the Elvis Presley estate, took exception to the products. In 1991, EPE registered the names, despite objections from Mr Shaw who claimed that, as result, EPE had a virtual monopoly on Elvis memorabilia throughout the world. Mr Shaw decided to ask a High Court judge to decide if anyone could claim exclusive rights to use the names.

At the hearing, Peter Prescott, for EPE, argued that when people bought souvenirs of their heroes they wanted them to come from a "genuine source".

But the judge said: "Just as Elvis Presley did not own his name so as to be able to prevent all and any uses of it by third parties, so EPE can have no greater rights."

Elvis impersonators also had reason to celebrate as the judge added: "Presley did not own his appearance - for example, during his life he could not prevent a fan from having a tattoo or a drawing on his car which looked like the musician, simply on the basis that it was his appearance which was depicted." Ian Burrell